House of Commons Library

Brexit: the August negotiations

Published Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What happened in the third round of Brexit negotiations from 28 to 31 August? Was any progress made in the contentious areas of citizens' rights for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU after Brexit? And has the UK agreed to pay the 'divorce bill' demanded by the EU? And could the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remain open and flexible after Brexit? The talks did not resolve these issues, but some aspects were agreed. Will this be enough to allow a move to phase two of the negotiations in October?

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The third round

The third round of Brexit negotiations ran from 28 to 31 August 2017. Before the third round the UK published three position papers, four future partnership papers and four technical notes.  The talks focused on the following areas:

Citizens’ rights

The EU and UK negotiators, Michel Barnier and David Davis, continued to discuss their respective positions, in particular, issues not covered in the previous round, such as professional qualifications and economic rights. An updated comparative joint technical note was agreed by both parties

Financial settlement

The negotiators continued discussions and compared the respective legal analyses of the UK’s obligations towards the EU. The UK did not publish its analysis

Ireland and overall governance

There were discussions on Ireland/Northern Ireland issues (Common Travel Area, the ‘Good Friday’ agreement) and the overall governance of the withdrawal agreement.

Other separation issues

Euratom, goods placed on the market, on-going EU procedures, judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters were also discussed.

How much progress was made?

While some advances were made in aspects of citizens’ rights and technical aspects of other separation issues, little progress was made on the financial settlement, with the EU continuing to press the Government for a “clear position” on the UK’s recognition of its “legal and moral” commitments to a settlement.

Progress was also made on agreeing the principles behind the Common Travel Area and the North-South and East-West cooperation set out in the Good Friday Agreement. However, detailed technical discussion is still needed, particularly on the issue on the movement of goods across the border.

The UK negotiator, David Davis, maintained that the two sides had made “concrete progress on many important issues”. But Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said there had been no progress on major issues and suggested there might not be enough time to negotiate an orderly UK withdrawal from the EU. He did not think “sufficient progress” would be made by October, in order to start the second phase of the negotiations on future EU-UK relations.

Statement to Commons

On 5 September David Davis made a statement to Parliament on progress in the negotiations. He was more optimistic about progress in key areas than Michel Barnier, although he too acknowledged there are significant differences in some areas.

The negotiations continue

The next two rounds of negotiations start on 18 September and 9 October, and the European Council on 19 – 20 October will be the first opportunity for the EU27 to consider formally whether “sufficient progress” has been made in the first phase of negotiations.

Further reading

This paper follows two Commons Library briefing papers on the Brexit negotiations, Brexit: the talks begin, 12 July 2017, and Brexit: the July negotiations, 2 August 2017.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is discussed in Commons Briefing Paper European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, 1 September 2017.

 

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